Reunification day in Germany
Ten years ago today, the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) and the German Democratic Republic (GDR) were reunified. I remember sitting in front of the TV with my sister on October 3, 1990, and watching the reunification celebrations in Berlin. We thought it almost incredible that this was really happening.
It was stated in the German constitution that a reunification should take place if the political situation made it possible, but for decades it looked like this was not going to happen. I think that even a few months before the wall came down, nobody would have dared to predict that a revolution like this was going to happen or even remotely possible, and it was even less probable that it was going to be a peaceful revolution without any bloodshed.
On October 18, 1989, the GDR leader Erich Honecker had to step down because of growing protests in cities all over the GDR. Hungary was the first eastern state to open its borders, and many East Germans fled to the west via Hungary.
On November 9, 1989, the GDR leadership held a press conference on which Günter Schabowski, then the leader of the communist party (SED), announced that the GDR would open its borders as well. A journalist asked when this was going to happen, and Schabowski, a little confused, couldn’t find the date on his papers and said he thought the borders were open from this moment on.
The conference was on TV in the GDR, and people went to the border – or, in Berlin, to the wall – right away to see if it was really true.
On that evening, western TV was full of pictures of people walking or driving to the German-German border. I will never forget these images of people in their Trabbis (typical East German car) driving into Western Germany, unbelieving that this was really happening. They were greeted by West Germans, who were as surprised as the East Germans. People stood everywhere and waved their hands, shouted greetings, laughed and cried.
Roughly half a year after the opening of the Eastern Germany borders, on July 1, 1990, the economic unity was reality, the German Mark (DM) was the valid currency in both parts of Germany, and on October 3, 1990, there was one German state.
Who would have thought that to be possible on October 3, 1989?
I’m interested in hearing what memories you have of the wall coming down and the reunification, especially if you are not from Western Germany, like me. Please share them with us!
And if you want to read about the reunification, I suggest the following websites:
State and nation: Germany since reunification, by Mark Blacksell. He is Professor and Head of the Department of Geographical Sciences at the University of Plymouth, England, and briefly explains the historic background of Germany and its course since World War II, and discusses the issues and problems of the reunification that were faced in 1989 and 1990.
Breaking Down the Wall to Democracy is a project of the University of South Dakota in Vermillion that covers the events occurring before, during, and after the Berlin Wall and discusses political, social, economic, and international aspects of the wall. It is devided into three parts:
- Bye Germany, hello wall (the Cold War and the Wall)
- Goodbye wall (the events that lead to the collaps of the Wall)
- Hello Germany (the reunification of Germany and its effects)
The Wall, by Burkhard Kirste, 1997. This is a fairly condensed article about the Berlin wall from its construction to its fall. It has links to other interesting sites about the subject as well.
Stefan Dreßler was born in 1978 and grew up in the GDR. He wrote down his opinion about the GDR, the FRG and the fall of the wall when he was 16: The Berlin Wall falls.
Guido Westerwelle/Germany: Reunification through Economics, a Business Week article from November 8, 1999, by David Fairlamb. Westerwelle is general secretary of the Free Democratic Party (FDP) and a leading opposition member of Parliament in Germany.
If you’d like to see photos of the Berlin Wall (before 1989), go see the photo gallery by Chris De Witt.
And last but not least, Craig had this link yesterday:
Online Exhibition: A Concrete Curtain: The Life and Death of the Berlin Wall. “History of the wall through photographs and text. Very interesting and well presented.”
Thanks to Al Hawkins, Sam DeVore, Garret Vreeland, Sean Floyd, Jonas Beckman, John Marden, Jan-Willem Swane, Sheila Simmons and Jeff Cheney for sharing their memories!
Marek J reminds us that before the wall came down, people were shot when trying to cross the border. We should not forget the people who died while trying to flee from the GDR.